Minimum form of absolution


I’ve just come from confession, and the priest seemed to be in a bit of a hurry. He gave me a penance and then only said “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

I can’t remember if this is sufficient for absolution or not.

He also may have said “I forgive you…” instead of “I absolve you.” Same ultimate meaning, but I know that form is important to the sacrament.

Thanks for any input you can give!


Trust the Priest to do his job. You do your job and your penance etc.


I would trust the priest to do his job generally, but he’s said some stuff before that makes me question his… attention to detail. I wouldn’t generally go to him for confession except for that he’s one of three rotating priests, and I never know who’s going to be in the confessional booth on any given day.



i have to say this. Your attention to detail is lacking. You are not sure what your Priest said . Be at Peace and pay more attention next time. Or simply go again.


You post many questions in a similar fashion.
Talk to him about scruples next time. I would hate to see you fall into scruples, they are debilitating and really prevent you from fully living in faith.



Roose - I have some problems with memory and concentration. I was focusing while he was speaking, but when I tried to remember it it got muddled.

PianistClaire - My other question in this vein was of similar subject matter, but very different, though the root cause was the same priest. Whenever I try to confess to him, he tries to prevent me from listing the “kind” of sin. He always tells me to just say “a sin against chastity” or something like that, which is invalid form. That’s the only other confession topic I’ve started, at least as far as I can remember. Today, he essentially told me I going to confession too often, even though I only go after committing a mortal sin. (a real mortal sin, not a scrupulous “I think this might have been a mortal sin.”). I’ve had a difficult week dealing with a particular bad habit, and he seemed very annoyed when I said I’d been to confession earlier this week but fell again. He then immediately rushed through the penance and absolution prayer.

I know the signs of scrupulously, and this is not that. I simply couldn’t recall if “I absolve you of your sins” was all that was necessary, or if the portion of “through the ministry of the Church…” was also required. His apparent impatience and the… abruptness of the prayer are what led me to question its form.


The priest performed the minimum required form.

Please reflect that the scrupulous are notoriously bad at self-diagnosis and that you should listen to your priest. If you feel you must refrain from Holy Communion at daily Mass you may do so but maybe you could stick to weekly confession.

Be at peace.


Wondering if absolution was valid or not, based on inconclusive data coupled with a lack of precise knowledge, is clearly a sign of some level of legalistic scrupulosity. The fear here may not be that you can’t determine whether your acts were mortal sins, but rather it is a fear that your Confessor is too sloppy or too stupid or too poorly formed or too modernistic to actually administer Absolution in such a way that you are truly forgiven of your sins by God.

That, after all, is the root cause of this thread: I’m afraid that this Priest is daffy, can I trust him? Well, if you’re afraid of such things because of vague impressions that maybe something might not have been said that maybe should be said, but you can’t be sure of either of those facts, then certainly, there’s something amiss.

And let’s also point out that you state that listing your sins as being “sins against chastity” is invalid form. Well, no, it’s not. The confessed sins are not the form of Confession, they are the matter. And listing your sins by genus like that would invalidate your Confession only if you were doing so to deliberately hide the type of sin you committed and, thereby, mislead by telling a lie. If a Confessor tells you to do so, it’s on the understanding that he interprets that particular phrase as, presumably, referring to masturbation. That does not constitute invalid matter because … he knows what you’re talking about. And if a Priest doesn’t know, he’ll ask.

So fearing about this Priest based on the information you’ve given is not reasonable.


I understand that scrupulous individuals are bad at self-diagnosis, but I promise you, that is not this.

I deal with an addiction to pornography, and have been struggling with it quite a bit this week, which has necessitated frequent visits to the confessional. Waiting to go to confession till next week would accomplish nothing but leaving me with a mortal sin on my soul, making me incapable of taking communion at mass this weekend, and placing my soul in jeopardy should I be unfortunate enough to die.

I am not questioning if the sacrament was efficacious (a subjective notion), only if the proper form was followed (an objective set of criteria). I am not inflating a venial sin into a mortal sin, nor am I confessing the same instance of sin multiple times. I committed an objective, clear-cut mortal sin, and I went to confession. I was unsure about the minimal necessary formulation for absolution, and sought clarification. I like to know things, it’s as simple as that.


I’m sorry, but this is a mis-characterization of my concern. I admit to having some reservations about this priest, but they are not unfounded. He has interrupted my confessions in the past to tell me to follow an (objectively) invalid formulation of confession (listing only number, not kind), and has previously indicated that he does not believe indulging in pornography to be something that requires confessing. I know that does not invalidate his ability to grant absolution, but it is enough to cause concern.

As a result of these previous interactions, when he gets annoyed and then leaves off three-quarters of the formulation he (and all other priests I’ve ever confessed to) normally uses, it is not irrational to wonder if the full formulation was necessary or not. In my life there have only been a handful of instances where the priest didn’t say the whole formulation, and I can’t recall a single instance where they only said the absolution sentence. I was simply seeking clarification for what the proper form was as a point of knowledge for the future. I didn’t know, and given this drastic change from my typical experience, I decided that I wanted to know. It’s not that odd, nor is it indicative of scrupulosity. It has less to do with the priest, and more to do to just how different it was from what I understood to be normal operating procedure. The priest is inconsequential to if I would have asked the question.

Also, sins against chastity is too broad a categorization. That could cover any one of a dozen or more distinct mortal sins. It could be pornography, masturbation, fornication, etc. I understand your reasoning, I shared it at one point in time, but upon further reflection and study my mind was changed. For me, it’s not a question of if following his instructions in this regard would invalidate the sacrament, I don’t believe they would since the priest is the one instructing me to do so. I simply desire to follow the proper form as outlined by the Church. You may call it legalistic if you like, but I believe the rubrics exist for a reason, and should be followed whenever possible.


If you are not sure as to the distinction between form and matter in Confession, if you are not aware of what the valid form of Absolution must take, why should you be so sure that you understand when a genus of sin is so broad that, quite against the penitent’s intent to be honest, it should invalidate his Confession?

Because it does no such thing outside of such a dishonest intention. If the Priest hears a genus of sin being Confessed, and if he doesn’t presume that a particular species of sin is being implied thereby, then he will ask precisely. If he doesn’t, the sincere penitent need not worry.

And yes, it is legalism. Because it presupposes that outward actions are more important than the inner heart.


Because I’ve asked about and studied one, whereas I hadn’t asked about or studied the other. I have knowledge about the proper form and matter of the penitent’s portion of confession because, as a penitent, I have sought information about it and studied it. I’d never had reason to ask about the proper form of the priest’s portion of the sacrament, so I didn’t know what he needed to say. Now I do, which was the only purpose of this thread.

While sincere desire is absolutely necessary and the most important thing, and intent is certainly very important, the Church does provide guidelines for the proper form which should be followed by faithful Catholics. In order for a confession to be valid, form and kind are required. “Chastity” is not a kind of sin, it is a category of kinds.

That said, I’m sure that someone who confesses in this manner would still be forgiven, assuming they are not seeking to hide anything. God is merciful and loving, and knows our hearts.

Again, this is a mischaracterization. I know that internal disposition is the most important thing when it comes to confession. That doesn’t mean that external form is inconsequential. The priest could intend to baptize all he wants, but unless he follows the external form of “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” combined with some interaction with water, the baptism isn’t valid. Both things are important, and it’s not legalistic to acknowledge and adhere to that fact.


If the priest said “I absolve you…Spirit”, then that’s valid. If he said “I forgive you…” then it’s doubtful. To forgive and to absolve are different. I can forgive my wife for whatever, or vice versa, but we do not absolve each other.

Nevertheless, I don’t know of any official pronouncement from the Church which says that “I forgive you…” is not valid.



The penitent has no form that he brings to Confession; that’s what the Priest does.

If by “faithful Catholics” you mean “penitents,” then you again are confusing form and matter. Confessed sins are the matter of Confession. They are not the form.

Like all Sacraments, the proper form and matter are required.

It is a genus of sin, correct. However, where you’re confusing yourself is that you’re presupposing that a particular word is not being understood to refer to a particular action because it is a genus. Words have a semantic range. In one context, a word could mean one thing: such as “unchastity” being a genus of sin. But in another context, it can mean something different: such as when a Priest asks you to use that word when you mean a particular action.

The Priest is not confused as to what you’re talking about. He knows what you mean. You know that he knows what you mean. But your fear is that you are not technically fulfilling a duty while ignoring that in practice you did. That is rooted in legalism.

The matter of Confession is the confessed sin which is itself rooted in the intent of the penitent. This is absolutely different from any of the other Sacraments, whose matter does not depend on intent, but rather depends on specific externals.

There isn’t a library of old books stashed away in the Vatican that describes precisely the exact wording that must be used for a particular sin in order for it to properly constitute the matter of Confession. There is no such external and acting as if there is is legalistic.

But rather, there is the requirement for mortal sins to be named by species and by number … so that the Priest understands what the species and number are. And HOW they are named by species can absolutely be influenced by the direction of the Confessor. He won’t simply tell you to say X when you mean Y, and somehow your saying X in fact implies Z.

I can mean to say something in Confession when I use certain words that might not accurately describe what I’m referring to. And that intention suffices to be the valid matter of my Confession. Therein, my intention is important when it comes to matter.

But again, in other Sacraments, where the matter is precisely specified, intention cannot simply transform invalid matter. Therein, intention is not important when it comes to matter.


In an effort to make sure that I wasn’t mistaken about the kind requirements, I called into Catholic Answers live this afternoon. They confirmed my position that “sins against chastity” would not be specific enough to warrant a valid confession. I understand your argument and your position, but I’m going to take their word over yours.

To address a few of the remaining points, the penitent most definitely has a required form to their confession. We must confess in number and kind. That is the form of confession on our end. The confessed sins are the matter, but the manner in which we confess them, again, number and kind, are the form.

I don’t know why you emphasized matter in terms of what’s required, I don’t reject that. Of course the proper matter is necessary, as is the proper form.

I’m sorry, but you’re just wrong. The intent is absolutely necessary, but so is the proper form. In order for a penitent’s confession to be valid, they MUST relate the number and kind of their sins. That is a specific external requirement that must be adhered to. The requirement is not for number and species, it is for number and kind. A species would be a sin against chastity, I agree, but that is not what is required, Kind is required, and a kind is the specific form an offense against one of the virtues takes on.

This, however, is a completely separate topic than the answer I was seeking. Given that I have received that answer, I ask that this thread be allowed to die. If you’d like to continue this discussion I encourage you to make another thread, but we’ve completely moved away from the intended topic of this discussion. If you’d like to hear the response I received, I was the last caller in today’s first hour.

There’s a paragraph about halfway down this page which describes the requirements of the penitent for a valid confession. It very clearly states number and kind.
USCCB: Catechism


I think you’ve been reading too much CAF, frankly.
There are many people here, that subscribe to a “DO IT LIKE THIS OR ELSE” form for confession. You confessor can ask you to speak to him in the way that he feels is most beneficial. The priests around here don’t necessarily favor the number and species" format becuase they feel it’s a grocery list. You recite a list and they absolve you go your merry way. They prefer to talk it out…find what is the root problem, help you work through it, and hopefully you come to confession often enough that will see progress in you.
They can do this, and it’s not wrong.
I know you likely heard that here, and while there are people who can quote chapter and verse from the GIRM and the Catechism, your priest and regular confessor is the one you need concern yourself with. Simply tell him you need spiritual direction as obviously you struggle and you want to get the most out of confession with him. You need his advice, and you need him to be frank with you. I think you will find that he has a different attitude when you do this.
I wish you peace.


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